Situation in the field of national security and defence of Belarus (June 2019)

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The most important events of the month. On July 17-19, the Minister of Defence of Belarus Andrei Raukou was on a visit to Serbia. Formally, in connection with the Belarusian-Serbian-Russian exercises “Slavic Brotherhood-2019”. During the visit, Raukou met high-ranking Serbian officials. He discussed the issue of expanding bilateral cooperation in the field of defence with the Minister of Defence of Serbia Alexander Vulin: training military personnel, training of RCBP units and peacekeeping forces.

Vulin said that the Belarusian-Serbian relations in the field of defence were never so close before due to the special nature of bilateral political relations. He assured that Serbia will continue to accurately fulfil the commitments made to Belarus and is interested in the development of military-technical cooperation between the two countries. It is not clear exactly what obligations were meant: was it about paying for the repair of MiG-29 fighters, which Minsk handed over to Belgrade, or something else.

Issues of security cooperation were discussed during the meeting between Andrei Raukou and Serbian President Alexander Vucic.

The “Slavic Brotherhood-2019” itself was an antiterrorist event: the international coalition battalion was supposed to block and destroy imaginary militants. Belarus was represented by about 60 soldiers.

On June 24-25, a delegation led by the Chairman of the State Military-Industrial Committee of Belarus Roman Halouchanka visited Serbia to participate in the “PARTNER-2019” arms exhibition. There Halouchanka met Serbian President Vucic, Serbian Defence Minister Vulin and his assistant in material resources Nenad Miloradovic, the leadership of the Jugoimport company. The areas of bilateral military-technical cooperation were discussed during the meetings.

The developments within the month. On June 1, 2019 the Government of Belarus by Resolution No. 347 “On the Financial Support of Territorial Defence” allowed local authorities to allocate funds for the needs of territorial defence (TD).

On June 4, 2019 the State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Stanislau Zas held consultations in Tashkent with the Secretary of the Security Council under the President of Uzbekistan, Viktor Makhmudov. The directions of cooperation between the two countries’ security councils have been determined. It is necessary to recall that May 2019 was a record month for the intensity of contacts between Belarus and Uzbekistan in the field of security.

The 2nd meeting of the Joint Belarusian-Egyptian Committee for Military-Technical Cooperation was held on June 9-10 in Cairo. Belarusian delegation was headed by the Chairman of the State Military Industrial Committee Roman Halouchanka, the Egyptian one — by the State Minister of the Military Industry of Egypt Mohammed al-Assar. During the meeting, “… a wide range of issues of cooperation in the field of defence industry, including those relating to the possibility of supply, joint production, modernization and repair of weapons, military and special equipment, were discussed”. The draft Roadmap for the development of cooperation between the Belarusian State Committee for the Defence Industry and the Ministries of Defence and Military Industry of Egypt for 2019-2021 has been approved.

The representatives of the enterprises of the Belarusian military-industrial complex attended the meeting of the Committee as well.

In addition, Mr. Halouchanka held talks with the President of the Arab Organization for Industrialization Holding, Lieutenant-General Abdelmumin Al-Tarras and the leadership of the Egyptian army. During the talks, the prospects of Belarusian-Egyptian cooperation in the field of aviation, automotive, optics, communications and intelligence, radar, electronics and information technology were discussed.

In Belarus, the Minister of Internal Affairs was replaced: on June11, 2019, instead of the retired Ihar Shunevich the office was headed by the Commander of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Yury Karayeu. We have dedicated a separate article to this event.

On June 13, 2019 a meeting of the leaders of the border departments of Belarus and Lithuania was held. The parties exchanged information on measures to strengthen border security, the results of the activities of the border guards of the two countries in the current year. The situation on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border is characterized as stable and controlled.

On June 14, 2019 Aliaksandr Lukashenka, speaking at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek, focused mainly on the security crisis and once again tried to promote the peacemaking ideas of the official Minsk.

TD exercises in two districts of the country were held. On June 14, a training session began in the Beshankovichski district with a call for people liable for military service and acceptance of vehicles from civil organizations for the needs of the territorial troops. And on June 27-29 in Shumilinski district the exercises to counteract sabotage and terrorist activities were held. Taking into account the fact that these are neighbouring districts, it is highly likely that they are merged into one TD district.

President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi paid a visit to Belarus. On June 18, 2019 he held talks with Lukashenka and among other things discussed issues of military-technical cooperation. Earlier, a joint project for the production of vehicles MAZ with the participation of Egyptian military-industrial complex companies was launched. In 2018, only 72 units were assembled. According to Lukashenka, for profitable work, the enterprise should produce “… at least 350-400 units per year.” The parties plan to expand cooperation in the field of information and communication, unmanned and aviation technologies, as well as optics.

The level of importance of the Egypt President’s visit for Belarus is evidenced by the fact that Lukashenka accompanied him to the airport personally. Official sources interpreted this as a sign of successful negotiations. But nothing was reported on the specific agreements.

On June 18-20, in the framework of the International Meeting of High Representatives responsible for Security Issues, a meeting of the Security Council Secretaries of Belarus and Russia Stanislau Zas and Nikolai Patrushev was held in Ufa (Russia). It is interesting to note that official Russian sources did not pay attention to this event. Judging by the fact that in three days the leaders of the Russian Security Council held over 80 meetings, most of them were of a protocol nature.

On June 18-19, the Commander of the Belarusian Air Force Major General Ihar Holub visited Poland. An agreement on the exchange of information about the air situation in the vicinity of the joint border and the flights of military aircraft in the airspace of the two countries was signed.

On June 26, 2019 the governing state agencies of the military-industrial complex of Belarus and Russia signed a protocol on amending the intergovernmental program for the development of bilateral military-technical cooperation until 2020. The updated program includes promising areas of cooperation, clarified the list of event performers.

On the same day, the Minister of Defence of Belarus Andrei Raukou confirmed the continued interest in the purchase of Russian heavy Su-30SM fighters. But the final decision should be taken by Aliaksandr Lukashenka. After that, the military department will be able to get money to pay for the aircraft.

In June, the prosecutor’s office of the Mahiliou region held a series of activities to prevent offenses among military personnel. This is due to the call for urgent military service. For two weeks, prosecutors spoke daily to young people sent to the troops, explaining to them the rights and obligations of servicemen, the procedure for actions in case of their violation during military service.

On the basis of the 147th anti-aircraft missile regiment, prosecutors organized an on-site reception for servicemen. After that, the requirements of the legislation on military service were explained to the officers and military servicemen.

On the same day, after the end of the day, prosecutors suddenly checked how law and order was secured in the 83rd separate airfield-engineering regiment.

In the special police battalion of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA IT) in Bobruisk an anonymous survey of the servicemen of the second half of the service regarding the conditions of service and the facts of non-statutory relations was conducted.

In the 5th police brigade of the MIA IT a meeting with the recruits’ parents was held. During the meeting the procedure for responding to violations of the rights and legitimate interests of their sons during service was discussed.

In June, the economic court of the Vitsebsk region considered two cases on the claims of military units to the authorities of the Talochynski district and the city of Vitsebsk. The military, through the court, charged the local authorities with damage caused by the call for urgent military service of persons who were not fit for health reasons.

In Belarus, amendments to the criminal legislation on combating illegal drug trafficking in the direction of lowering the lower limit of responsibility are being considered. MIA opposes this measure. Earlier, Lukashenka himself demanded to create intolerable conditions for those convicted of these crimes. But on February 27, 2018, speaking at a meeting of the Security Council of Belarus, he accused the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the fight against illegal drug trafficking is just arresting and punishing consumers and small dealers. While the big dealers of the drug market stay unpunished. This view is shared by a significant part of society. At the same time, the first statements by officials about the possibility of mitigating responsibility for certain acts related to illegal drug trafficking began.

The State Border Committee of Belarus has announced a significant increase in attempts to smuggle weapons and ammunition across the border of the country. Compared to 2013, the number of such facts on the border with the EU countries increased by more than 6 times. Since the beginning of this year, the Belarusian border guards have stopped 45 such attempts.

In June, a series of military training activities took place. Thus, the level of combat and mobilization readiness of the 1562 th technical missile base responsible for the safety of anti-aircraft missiles was checked. 170 reservists, including 24 officers, were called up from the reserve, 39 units out of 70 involved were used from storage.

In the 969th base of the reserve tanks the training of military service was held. The repair military unit was formed. About 150 conscripts were called up from the reserve.

The exercise of the 927th center for the preparation and use of unmanned aircraft complexes was held. All equipment of the unit was involved in the event. The military units performed tasks almost autonomously at a great distance from each other (search for sabotage and reconnaissance groups, the location of troops, individual units, masked objects, aerial photography of areal objects).

In June, a scientific-practical conference on the topic “The use of unmanned aircraft complexes in the interests of the Air Force and air defence forces. Protection of objects from UAVs”, organized by the command of the Air Force and Air Defence of the Belarusian army, was held. The event was attended by both representatives of law enforcement agencies and enterprises of the military-industrial complex specializing in unmanned aircraft. The conference explored various aspects of using UAVs and countering them. Practical modelling of the enemy’s UAV control and the use of UAVs in the interests of own forces have been carried out. The already adopted UAVs and ones of the most promising models of domestic production were used. Among others, remote-controlled and robotic fire destruction systems (“Adunok” and “Berserk”) were used to counter UAVs.

In particular, the UAVs were used to transfer intelligence data to aircraft for air strikes, to conduct search and rescue operations, to conduct reconnaissance in the interests of the unit’s protection, as well as to destroy targets using combat UAVs. It was confirmed that the creation of a combat UAV of greater range remains in the number of priorities.

Belarus makes changes in the legislation on compulsory military service. The conditions for granting deferrals for education are becoming tougher. The new conditions caused widespread discontent. It is particularly worth noting that unpopular changes are practically accepted. But measures that could stimulate interest in military service are still being discussed. Moreover, they are limited in order to avoid significant additional costs for the state. So, they are unlikely to be able to drastically affect the alienation of young people from the army.

In June, the Defence Ministry signed several contracts for the modernization of military equipment with Russian enterprises:

— 11 T-72B tanks will be upgraded to the level of T-72B3 in 2019-2020, which confirms the serious lack of funds to upgrade the fleet of armoured vehicles;

 — Yak-130 airplanes will be additionally equipped for the installation of Belarusian on-board defence complex “Talisman”, which is the implementation of the idea of ​​transforming a combat and training airplane into a combat one.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported on the results of the fight against illegal drug trafficking in the current year:

— 15 supply channels from abroad, as well as their transit traffic, were suppressed;

— a total of 500 kg of drugs was seized;

— the activity of two clandestine drug labs was stopped, 10 premises adapted for growing narcotic plants were found;

— 22 criminal cases for the maintenance of drug traffickers were initiated;

— steps to block access to 266 sites containing information on drug trafficking were taken.

Conclusions. Judging by the importance Serbia gave to the visit of Andrei Raukou, cooperation with Belarus in the field of security is important for Belgrade and has a positive dynamic.

The intensity of Belarusian-Serbian contacts in the political and security fields cannot be explained by economic factors. Lukashenka was never stranger to pan-Slavic views and even claimed political leadership in the Orthodox part of Slavism at the beginning of his rule. Nevertheless, the military-industrial complex of the two countries have significant potential for cooperation. Which is of greater interest to Belarus than the purely military component of the Belarusian-Serbian relations.

Speaking about financing local budgets for Territorial Defence, it is worth recalling that the cities in Belarusian province have very little of their money due to over-centralization of financial resources in Belarus. As a result, we are talking about the financing of TD from the central budget through local ones. These expenses will be allocated outside the budget of the Ministry of Defence. There is no reason to believe that these will be significant amounts. Rather, in this way, the Ministry of Defence shifts part of the functions and responsibility for the condition of TD to local authorities, just limiting itself to regulatory, coordination and control tasks.

Based on official sources, attracting external financial and technical assistance is an important element of Belarusian-Lithuanian cooperation in the field of border security.

It is unlikely that the peace initiatives of the official Minsk aroused interest among the SCO countries, for which (apart from Russia) security problems in Central Asia, and not Eastern Europe, are relevant. At the same time, the SCO cannot be considered useless for Belarus: the organization is used as a platform for promoting trade, economic and political interests of Minsk, and security issues here are auxiliary.

The visit of the President of Egypt to Belarus is rather a political “investment” in the development of bilateral relations. Belarus is interested to go through Egypt to the markets of Africa and the Middle East. Considering the topicality of security issues for Cairo, cooperation in this area is considered by Minsk rather as a tool to achieve the abovementioned task, and not an independent goal of Belarusian-Egyptian interaction.

The Belarusian-Polish agreement on the exchange of information on the air situation is part of Minsk’s efforts to improve relations with NATO countries. The problem is that the Belarusian authorities are not distinguished by the logic and consistency of their actions. In the backstage of NATO there are doubts about the good faith of Minsk in matters of security. Despite external differences (sometimes significant ones) in the positions of Belarus and Russia, Minsk not only simply agrees with the Kremlin on important issues of regional and international security at international sites, but often initiates local scandals, which are then joined by Russian representatives.

The nature of the changes made to the program of the Belarusian-Russian military-technical cooperation until 2020 is not known for certain. Given the duration of the program, its change makes sense if the parties plan to continue its implementation (fully or most likely in certain areas) after the end date.

It should be noted that the purchase of the Su-30SM for the Belarusian army raises a number of questions that the Ministry of Defence prefers not to answer. Probably due to the fact that the answers to them are unlikely to please the Belarusian taxpayers. Especially with the upcoming election campaign and a very ambiguous socio-economic situation. Especially in the Belarusian province.

It is necessary to pay attention to the intensification of the activities of the prosecutor’s office to ensure law and order precisely in the MIA IT in the last months. It was traditionally considered that non-statutory relations there were less common in comparison with the army. We also pay attention to the expansion of the verification activities of the prosecutor’s office, which often duplicate the activities of the control bodies of the Ministry of Defence and the military counter-intelligence.

It is obvious that the trend of tightening control over the state of affairs in institutions where conscription service is used will continue for the foreseeable future. The country’s political leadership prefers tightening control instead of eliminating the conditions for violations.

The recovery of expenses for maintenance of persons unjustifiably called up for military service is noteworthy in two points. Firstly, it became known how much the Belarusian state allocates for the maintenance of its defenders: about USD 260 per month per soldier. Secondly: it is highly likely that the amount of damage to the Army will be recovered from members of the conscription commissions, which is formed by local authorities to organize a call up for military service. Which can lead to the situation, when conscription commissions will consider people unfit for military service for health reasons if there is at least the slightest reason for this. Which will further aggravate the situation with the call for military service.

It is obvious that the country’s leadership is trying to “intercept” the problem, which they are able to resolve positively. In the absence of a clear and positive program of socio-economic development of the country, the Belarusian authorities try to avoid the appearance of additional public irritants. In order to prevent politicization of groups of disgruntled ones and not to allow them to put forward authoritative and well-known leaders from their midst, which can destabilize the internal political situation. Which, according to the official Minsk, external forces can take advantage of. This is a direct threat to the national security of the country.

The State Border Committee of Belarus traditionally avoids publishing details on the situation with the illegal traffic of weapons and ammunition across the border: it is unknown what kind of weapons were there (cold, pneumatic or firearms, combat or civil, etc.), there is no dynamics of changes in the situation for each type of weapons. Obviously, the data are published selectively and only if they meet the interests of the department.

The June conference on the use of UAVs was aimed, as far as can be judged, to organize the coordination of UAV developers and the military in terms of the further development of production and developments in the field of unmanned aircraft in Belarus. Earlier, representatives of the military industrial complex have already stated that the military is not in a position to form clear technical requirements for perspective unmanned systems.

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